OG principal issues challenge to students

By BETH BUNCH,

Oak Grove Lower Elementary School Principal Matt Thomas has thrown down the gauntlet. Now it’s up to his students and their parents to meet the challenge.

The principal has vowed to sit on the roof of the school for one whole day if at the end of October or November, the student body has 21 or fewer total absences per day, on the average. That’s 97 percent attendance.

October and November are important months for attendance in schools across the state’ as those months are used to calculate Minimum Education allotments by the State Department of Education. Those allotments are based on how many children are in class each day during those months.

“When we did the math, 97 percent of out total enrollment is about 21.5 absences a day,” Thomas said. “Looking at our attendance trends over the last couple of years, that is a number that is on the higher end of what our monthly attendance has been from September of 2016 to now.”

Thomas thinks his students are pretty excited about the challenge. “It’s tough to explain to them how to reach the target though,” he said. “Twenty-one absences seems like a lot… like almost a whole class. But when you have 690 students, an absence here and an absence there adds up fast.”

Thomas, who has been at the helm of the school since 2015, isn’t exactly sure where the idea came from, but says his team tries to think of creative ways to get students excited about attending school.

According to Thomas, students are being updated every day on how they’ve performed that day and for the week, and they plan on continuing with that schedule.

So if he ends up on the roof, what are his plans?

His first order of business will be to have an extension cord stretched to the roof so he can still get some office-type work done. “And somebody is going to have to bring me a lunch, I suppose,” he said. “I will pack enough drinks and snacks to make it through.”

Because there is not a flat surface on the roof, he’s thinking a chair with its legs placed on either side of the ridge ought to suffice.

“It’s a metal roof, so we are going to shoot for a dry day,” he said. “Hopefully it will be cozy that day, not too hot, not too cold. But a challenge has been issued and if our students meet it I will follow through on my end.”

While he’s never been on a roof before, he has been in a dunking tank, pie’d in the face, taped to a wall, ridden down the hall on a bicycle with balloons taped to a helmet, competed in a teacher dance off in front of the whole school. “So yeah, things like this are kind of a frequent occurrence,” Thomas said.

While Thomas isn’t sure this challenge will help get students to class, he said fun ideas have helped in other areas.

“We have a group of teachers that meet to look at ways to use positive reinforcement to help improve areas all around campus,” he said. “From attendance, to discipline, to behavior in school and on the bus, our PBIS (Positive Behavior Incentives & Support) Team does a really effective job of creating some cost-efficient ways to make some fun events for our kids.”

The principal feels the parents do a really good job of making sure their students make it to campus.

“If students are not feeling well, we have a registered nurse that is fully capable of dealing with most minor health-related issues,” he said. “And if it is absolutely necessary for parents to check students out to go on weekend trips or other appointments, waiting until after 12 pm to do so would be beneficial. That would reduce our absentee number also. It would also help if family vacations could be planned to avoid missing school days.”

His own children, Patrick (12), Emily Kate (10) and Jack (4) haven’t thought much about their dad’s potential trip to the roof. However, Jack, who is in pre-k at OG Primary, was shown the video of his dad on the roof by his teacher.  “He asked how I got down,” Thomas said.